Scott Walker finally retires campaign debt, but other candidates still owe

Louis Weisberg, Staff writer

Scott Walker has finally paid off the debt he accrued during his short-lived presidential run, putting him in a good position for his third gubernatorial bid.

Walker owed $1.2 million when he dropped out of the race in 2015 after just 71 days. In June 2016, he still owed more than $800,000 for a campaign that spent lavishly — up to $90,000 per day at its peak.

Walker had promised to pay off all the campaign  debt by the end of 2016 and apparently he did. The governor employed some unusual fundraising strategies, including selling pro-Walker T-shirts for $45.

The campaign said it could not guarantee color and size of the T-shirts, but suggested they were suitable for framing or for use as material in crafts work.

In May, Walker offered to rent out his email and donor lists to other political candidates in order to raise money to retire his campaign  debt.

Walker campaign adviser Joe Fadness said in a memo to Walker on Jan. 13 that his campaign debt had been erased thanks to robust fundraising in December. Fadness hinted that the strong fundraising in December shows Walker is in a good position for a third gubernatorial run.

Fadness told Walker he’s showing strength at a crucial time and noted the governor has about 30 fundraising events scheduled for the first half of 2017.

Other candidates’ campaign debt

Meanwhile, other 2016 presidential candidates have left a swath of debt for security services across the nation, including here in Wisconsin.

The Center for Public Integrity reported this week that Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have ignored hundreds of thousands of dollars in outstanding bills stemming from police security for campaign events — from Vallejo, California, to the University of Pittsburgh.

Green Bay officials said the three White House aspirants stiffed the city on police protection costs totaling $24,000.

“We appreciate, and we feel honored, when the candidates come to Green Bay,” Celestine Jeffreys, chief of staff to Mayor Jim Schmitt, told the CFPI. “We are also very appreciative when they honor their debts.”

CFPI investigators found that costs associated with Trump’s campaign were the highest, because the president-elect’s rallies were unruly and often violent. Trump sometimes incited brawls, and his campaign staffers were physically involved in some of them.

Trump’s refusal to pay for security contrasts sharply with his campaign rhetoric. One of his central messages was calling for increased respect and resources for law enforcement.

But Trump — despite receiving demand letters and collection notices — doesn’t acknowledge in federal campaign financial disclosures that it owes cities a cent. Ditto the Clinton campaign, which hasn’t paid at least $25,000 in bills.

The Sanders campaign, on the other hand, acknowledges in federal campaign filings that it owes $449,409 to nearly two dozen municipalities and law enforcement agencies.